The Right Way to Set Your Car Mirrors (Advice from an Expert)

STISIM Drive has clients all over the world, and, lucky for me, I occasionally get to visit them! As a traveler I end up driving a lot of rental cars, and, surprisingly almost 100% of the time, the side and rear view mirrors are not set correctly!

This, unfortunately, tells me a lot about other drivers. Namely, drivers don’t know how to properly set their mirrors. Yeah, mirrors are very low tech and not fancy like all the whiz-bang sensors on newer vehicles. But with a few minor adjustments to set them correctly, they are one of the most effective safety devices on your car.

Mirror, Mirror On the Car, What’s the Safest Setting By Far?

Side and rear view mirrors have a very specific purpose (hint: it’s not for shaving or putting on your makeup). The mirrors are there for one simple reason – so you can keep track of other vehicles around you. That way, should you need to move left or right, you can be certain the coast is clear. Sure, you could do the same thing by turning your head left or right, or even behind you (if you’re flexible enough), but that means taking your eyes off the road ahead of you. Mirrors let you take quick glances to assess your surroundings so that your eyes leave the roadway for a minimal amount of time.

So, what are drivers doing wrong when it comes to their mirrors? They are not adjusting them to cover the entire side lanes. The vast majority of drivers point their mirrors to keep the rear edge of their car in view. This is what creates the dreaded “blind spot” we hear so much about. As a result, drivers have to look over their shoulder to check if the lane next to them is clear or not, which takes their eyes off the road for a longer period of time. For drivers who are older or injured, this can be exacerbated by reduced mobility issues, making it impossible to do.

The Trick to Adjusting Your Mirrors

The trick to adjusting your mirrors correctly is pretty simple, but it could vary from vehicle to vehicle (and may take some subtle adjustments). A good rule of thumb for the left (driver’s side) mirror, is to press your head against the driver’s window and then adjust the mirror so that you just see the rear of your car in the left mirror.

Image 1

For the right (passenger’s side) mirror, lean to your right so that your head is in the center of the vehicle and then adjust the right mirror so that you just see the back of your car in the mirror. When driving, note how the cars around you are moving and, when it’s safe (of course), adjust accordingly.

Image 2

Take a look at the images to illustrate how it looks when your mirrors are set correctly. In Image 1, a green car is passing the driven vehicle on the left. As you can see, part of the vehicle can be seen in both the side and rear view mirrors. This concept extends further in Image 2, where part of the green car can be seen in both the side mirror and the driver’s peripheral view. That means no blind spot in the driver’s mirror coverage because the driver can continuously see parts of the vehicle from behind the driven vehicle until it has passed completely.

Image 3

The same concept applies to the right side as well, which is illustrated in Image 3.

Adjust Your Mirrors Accordingly

Using quick glances at correctly-set mirrors, and trusting your peripheral vision, means that your eyes spend more time on the road ahead and gives everyone a better chance of getting home safely each evening.